Dear Little Man,
I am a runner. Not a fast one or a long-distance one, but I do love to run. It’s very cathartic to me — it helps me clear my mind and it helps to get rid of my jitters when I have too much energy. But mostly running lets me get “out of my head” for a little bit, as they say — I’d probably lose my sanity if I stopped doing it.
I think about your letters a lot when I run. I actually started running after you were born. I ran on and off in high school, but never very seriously. I still had great metabolism then, so exercise was more for something to do than something to keep me healthy. But along with the 30 pounds I gained during pregnancy, I also gained a new respect for the whole exercise thing.
During the school year, I run at the gym. It’s free since I’m a student and the facility is relatively new so I like to take advantage of the nice equipment, not to mention the convenience. But during the summer (or freakishly warm winter days, like the past few), I run around The Lake, less than a mile from my apartment.
I love The Lake. The view is beautiful and the path is a lovely figure-eight shape, perfect for running laps that won’t bore you to tears (like tracks…I really don’t like tracks. It’s one of my ever-so-charming quirks).
I’m never alone when I run around The Lake. The only running mate I actually bring along with me is my iPod, but other people are always walking around The Lake. Old couples walk hand-in-hand, mothers power-walk with their babies in strollers, people walk their dogs, and other seasoned athletes (literally) run laps around me…it’s always buzzing with activity, and I love activity.
But one of the other things I love about all of these people, is that they bring out the writer in me. As I run (ahem, jog) past an old man with the cane, I wonder what his life has been like. Has he ever been in love? What is the best adventure he’s ever been on? Has he ever gone overseas? Did he used to be a runner? Does he have any regrets, does he want any do-overs? Is he going home to anyone? Does he have any kids or grandkids? Does he tell old war stories or yell at kids to get off his lawn?
I do the same thing when I see the dog-walkers and stroller-joggers and elderly hand-holders. Where have they been? What have they seen? Who do they love? Who do they miss? What is their story?
Because — something to know about me — I am of the mind that everyone has a story. Everyone has an adventure. Everyone has a turning point. Everyone has a pivotal moment. Everyone has lots of pivotal moments. Even the people who think they lead uneventful lives probably have a tale worth listening to.
These letters are part of my story. They’re part of yours too. Our stories will be forever intertwined, though yours will take on a more…independent tone as you get older. They won’t relate to me or The B’s, they’ll relate to you and your experiences with other aspects of your life.
But never forget…every story deserves to be told. Not everybody writes theirs down and not everybody wants to share. It’s understandable, but stories get lost that way. I’ve always been a sucker for listening to them — all I did as a kid was ask people to tell me about their lives (a future psych major if I’ve ever seen one) — and now, as a writer, I”m a sucker for telling them.
I will always remember something my dad (Pop Pop 3) told me back when I was 13 or 14. We were visiting my Grandma Lou. She was in her early 90’s though you’d never be able to tell it from her looks and spunk. My dad was on his way out to pick up some lunch to bring back and he asked me if I wanted to ride with him or stay to keep my grandmother company. I loved my Grandma Lou, but I had no idea what to talk to her about (I was sooo tired of hearing about her bad knees), but since she was so elderly, I treated every visit with her like it was my last one. Because…well..it might have been.
As I hesitated with my answer, my dad noticed and he said, “You know, she’s in her 90’s. She’s not going to be around much longer. And once she’s gone, all of her stories will be too. You should hear them while you can.”
He was right. So I stayed. I asked about her childhood. I asked about where she grew up. I asked her about how she met and fell in love with my grandpa, who I never got to meet. I asked her to tell that story a lot over the next couple of years (she didn’t die until I was 16 and she was 95). I love love stories, and she had the perfect, old fashioned tale to tell about ending up with my Grandpa Bernie. I’m glad I asked her because now, I have that story to pass on. It’s a good one. It shouldn’t have been missed.
So when I’m older and I’m walking around the local lake with my cane (or holding the hand of my old, wrinkly husband) and I’m passed by some young jogger, I’ll smile and think of all of the wonderful stories I’ve accumulated over the years. Unless I’m senile. Then I’ll wonder where I am, how I got there and who is the strange man holding my hand.
Either way, you’ve given me an incredible story to tell. I hope you end up with my curiosity to know the stories of others. I hope you always remember that yours is worth telling, too…
Because even if you don’t, J and I are thinking about turning it into a book anyway :)